More women try to break the gender barrier at Ahmednagar Shani temple

Four women activists tried to offer prayers at the famous Shani temple in Ahmednagar district where the move last month by a woman to defy convention and offer obeisance at the shrine triggered a debate on gender discrimination.

The four activists who belong to a Pune-based women group, Humata Ranragini Brigade, tried to barge into the restricted area of the Shani temple on December 20 but the security staff at the temple managed to overpower the activists and prevent their entry.

Last month, nine small steps taken by a woman to enter and offer prayers at a famous Shani shrine at a village in Ahmednagar district in 'breach' of the age-old practice of prohibiting entry of women has prompted the temple committee to suspend seven security men and the villagers to form purification rituals.

Objecting to the purification ritual, a member of the organisation said, "When did Shani Dev say that women should not come to the sanctum? Why was the purification ritual performed? Who decides that women are non-sacred? When you don't have any problem with offering 'prasad' made by women to Shani Dev, why should anyone object to women praying at the 'chauthara' (platform)," she said.

The women activists decided to cross over to the restricted Shrine area after some villagers undertook 'purification rituals', which ignited a debate on gender discrimination especially in places of worship. Cutting across political lines, women politicians have expressed support to the women who are challenging such restrictions.

Congress legislator Praniti Shinde said, "Doors of this particular temple should be opened up to women. I feel that this needs to be changed, and that's why I applaud this woman's guts for having done this."

BJP spokesperson Shaina NC said, "On one hand, you worship women as Durga, Saraswati and all the various goddesses, on the other, if she does prays at one place you say you need to cleanse the entire system."

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